In an off-season hearing at the state Capitol Wednesday, Cordele Republican Sen. Carden Summers reintroduced a bill that was tabled earlier this year that he says will protect Georgia children from being introduced to controversial gender ideology.
“I don’t want anyone talking to my grandchild about his gender and trying to persuade him to change his gender, not change his gender, all of the above,” Carden said. “I don’t want a racist person maybe teaching my child, talking to my child and talking about racism and trying to teach him to be a racist person. I want that to be left up to the parents or the guardian, at least until they’re 16 years old, which is the age of consent in Georgia.”
The bill would require anyone acting in place of a parent, including teachers at public and private schools, church leaders or camp counselors, to get parental permission before offering “any curriculum or instruction addressing issues of gender identity, queer theory, gender ideology, or gender transition.”
“It is not a don’t say gay bill, it’s not,” he said, eliciting chuckles from the crowd. “I understand the ones behind me think that and they want to make fun about it, but the reality of it is, I don’t care if it’s their children, your children or my children, it’s not the responsibility of the person in charge to teach these kids what they feel is right when it comes to gender.”
More than 40 people signed up to speak on the bill, nearly all of them in opposition. The proposed law came under fire from LGBTQ advocates and free market advocates alike, with the former saying that it unfairly targets transgender students and could prevent important conversations with supportive adults. The free market crowd’s concerns centered around the state stepping in and policing private organizations.
To bolster his point, Summers invited Kate Hudson, founder of a conservative non-profit called Education Veritas, to testify. Hudson showed lawmakers a slideshow she said demonstrates that elite private schools in Atlanta are catering to extremist ideologies.
Her examples included a drag performer talking to students, a school handing out name cards with personal pronouns and a teacher encouraging students to say “hey y’all” instead of “hey guys” to be more inclusive.
“This effort to indoctrinate students has nothing to do with kindness, including others or belonging,” she said. “It is an intentional effort to dismantle society and brainwash our youth through queer theory and political ideologies. This is the easiest path to transformation and destabilization. Division between parents and children is also not only being allowed, but encouraged.”
Sen. Sonya Halpern said she does not think the bill is intended to protect children and could instead insulate them from the people they could meet in the real world.
“If you refuse to talk about any of the things that are actually happening in other children’s life, how do we create children who can go out into the world, which is well beyond the four walls of their home and their parents, and be able to deal with the larger world when it comes time for them to?” said the Atlanta Democrat.
Gwinnett County mom Jordan Black said one of her children was the first student to transition in his school, a difficult task that would be more difficult with SB 88 in place.
“If Georgia teachers are unable to interact with my child in the full expression of who he is, my child will go to school feeling isolated and afraid,” she said.
“When you separate out a demographic as this bill does, the result is nothing less than the dehumanization of the children this bill targets,” she added.
Acworth Republican Sen. Ed Setzler expressed concerns with some of the lessons Hudson described, but said he was not sure the state should step in.
“My starting point is there’s no way this Legislature should ever dictate things to private schools beyond the very minimum, which says four and a half hours of teaching in these basic core subjects to be accredited and so forth.”
Setzler said he could be convinced to support the bill if the schools’ actions rose to the level of fraud, but otherwise parents could simply take their money and children elsewhere.
“To me, parents ought to say, ‘You know what, I’m dusting off my feet. These places, they got me in under a lie. They said they teach this and they’re teaching that,’” he said. “Heck, other parents may choose this school because they want this taught. We’re a free society. If you want this taught, go to these schools. Do it.”
Setzler found support from conservative allies including the Georgia Baptist Convention and Taylor Hawkins, director of advocacy with the conservative lobbying group Frontline Policy Action.
“We ourselves have furthered many pieces of legislation on this issue,” Hawkins said. “However, this bill tries to address these issues in a way that I feel is not appropriate, that our organization cannot support. The crux is this: this bill, while not intending to do so, undermines parental rights in our code, accepts the indoctrination it tries to prevent and inserts the government into private schools’ abilities to operate free from government coercion.”
Georgia Recorder is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity.